Tuesday, October 14, 2008

VCAT Community Forum on the 13th October

I attended this forum on behalf of the Save Knoxfield and Friends of Egan Lee Group.

For VCAT Justice Kevin Bell President of the Tribunal
(appointed in April) and Mrs Helen Gibson Deputy President.

There was not a huge attendance but enough very interesting and qualified people from the Melbourne area. (There was also one from Camperdown and one from Daylesford.)

This forum was part of a Review of VCAT by Justice Bell. There will be notices in the newspapers later asking for written submissions.

It was clearly stated by all there that the people were not being heard at VCAT.

That where VCAT suggested changes to the Council's Planning Scheme to stop inappropriate development they were not being accepted at Government level.

That only certain clauses were being given weight where as others, that would protect the environment and neighbourhood character, were largely being ignored.

That some VCAT members and Councils were not aware of all the facts or if they were they were being ignored.

The importance of considering neighbouring properties in the decision (which we know is not done in Knox). There was a case where a development had a brick wall on the plan and the one next door to it had balconies facing this wall. Eventually someone (VCAT) woke up and it was fixed.

Expert witnesses are a big problem at VCAT as far as the average person is concerned. (I am sure none of them slept well last night.)

The need to have the plans (as amended) available online and not hidden in Council Planning departments.

The Forum went over time so that everyone who attended could be heard. I was most impressed with this fairness and I am sure others were as well. Mrs Gibson answered questions after it concluded.

After the forum, what also came to light in discussions with the attendees was the number of people calling trying to get help with planning, VCAT and Council matters and most Groups said they didn't have the resources to help.

Neighbourhood character and its importance was also mentioned both during and after.

Ian will be back on Thursday and he, David and myself are off to the EDO VCAT seminar.

More later.

Irene M. Fullarton.

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